This blog is written by Daniel Coats, a lifelong Southern California resident. It explores places to visit in and around Southern California, with photos, videos, maps and text. All writing and photography is credit Daniel Coats, unless noted.
As a child growing up in the 1990s and 2000s, I fondly recall the distinctive Irish Texan accent and scholarly yet practical teaching of J. Vernon McGee on the radio. My mother and I would listen to his half-hour broadcast during our lunch break. Though McGee died in 1988, his Bible teaching ministry is still on the air throughout much of the world, broadcast in over 120 languages and dialects.
Born in rural poverty in Hillsboro, Texas, in 1904, McGee’s future became even more uncertain at age 14, when his father died in an occupational accident. But through the surprising support of some mentors, McGee received the funding needed to pursue a college education.
Years later, McGee relocated to Southern California, where he was a professor and department chair at Biola University in La Mirada, as well as pastor of the affiliated Church of the Open Door in downtown Los Angeles.
Today, this private evangelical Christian college in the Gateway Cities region of Los Angeles County has an enrollment of about 5,000 students in more than 150 programs of study.
While its diverse student body might be significantly smaller than many other Southland universities, Biola’s impact, both in Southern California and around the world, has been immense. Despite this impact, the university remains largely unknown to many Southern Californians. Here’s a look at its story, present influence and what to see if you visit Biola.
20 years ago this September, Southern California, the nation and the world was shaken by the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. It was a moment that defined a generation, changing our way of life and our outlook about the world. And it would forever alter the perception of the United States as an invincible superpower.
I was 10 years old on that fateful day, and I remember it well. But for a new generation coming of age, 9/11 is only a historical event, devoid of any personal experience.
In the aftermath of 9/11, numerous books, movies and programs were created to remember those lost and the enduring impact of that day.
Here are seven of the most memorable resources. Still widely available, they are good to share with today’s young people, to expand their knowledge of that unique time of tragedy, unity and heroism.
When Southern Californians think of mountain lakes, Big Bear, Lake Arrowhead or Lake Gregory usually come to mind. Yet the highest altitude lake resort in the region isn’t any of these, but the lesser-known but no less idyllic Green Valley Lake. Situated at 7,200-foot elevation, which also makes it the highest altitude subdivision in Southern California, this community of 1,100 properties centered around a nine acre lake is a great destination for fishing, swimming, hiking and relaxing in an alpine setting.
Not connected to any stream or river, there are two sources that supply the water of this pristine mountain lake. First are underground springs. And second is rain and snow, which is much heavier in this region than in the nearby lowlands.
Though many recent years have been drier, average annual precipitation of nearly 40 inches, coupled with significant winter snowfall, combine to make this area naturally verdant, even during drought or hot seasons. And during winter cold spells, the lake often freezes, at least partially.
When I did a poll on LinkedIn asking Southern Californians to name their favorite local mountain getaway, the San Bernardinos, home to Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead, not surprisingly was the overwhelming favorite.
But what surprised me most was the second choice.
Rather than Idyllwild or Julian, respondents selected the San Gabriel Mountains as their second most favorite pick.
The only community of any significant size in the San Gabriels is the town of Wrightwood, situated at nearly 6,000-foot elevation on the north slope of the granite mountain ridge that forms the backdrop of Los Angeles County.
Wrightwood is an unincorporated community and is mostly situated in San Bernardino County, though a small portion of the west end of town is in Los Angeles County.
A quiet yet intriguing community near the border of the mountain and High Desert ecosystems, Wrightwood is an accessible day or weekend destination from the Antelope Valley or along the I-15 headed to Las Vegas (it’s just a 14-mile detour on Highway 138 and Highway 2).
Not comfortable with a mountain drive? You’re in luck with Wrightwood! There’s no sharp curves when heading to this town, nor steep drop offs. You just turn a corner and come into an alpine paradise!
But it’s still an authentic wilderness experience – perhaps more so than the more-traveled destinations in the San Bernardino range.
Wrightwood is often said to be on the “shady side” of the mountain range, so the forests are thick and the snow lingers longer into the spring than on the south-facing slopes that Angelinos see each day.
In my hometown of Riverside, California, precipitation records are available going back to 1893. Through 128 years of droughts and floods and everything in between, there was only one year in which a majority of the precipitation fell in the summer months.
It was 2015. California was in the midst of its worst drought on record. And the strongest El Niño on record was forming in the tropical Pacific.
As the summer began, four consecutive years of drought and unusually severe heat put the region on high alert for wildfires and water shortages. Yet the atypical summer rains that would drench Southern California in July and September would result in the quietest fire season in the region in the past decade.
Here’s a look back at the freak wet summer of 2015. It’s a good reminder of the region’s climate variability and raises the question of whether increased summer rainfall would be most helpful in alleviating fire risks in the Southland.
An Active Eastern Pacific Hurricane Season Sets the Stage for a Wet Summer
While monsoonal moisture impacts mountain and desert areas of Southern California in most summers with occasional showers and thunderstorms, significant region-wide summer rain events almost always occur in connection with the remnants of hurricanes that move north from off the coast of Mexico (only one has made landfall in Southern California in historic times, and that was in 1939).
In 2015, the Eastern Pacific experienced its second most active hurricane season on record, no surprise for a year in which El Niño was the strongest on record. The unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Pacific in El Niño years provides fuel for Pacific storms.
There were 26 named storms, 16 hurricanes and 11 major hurricanes.
Of these, two storms – Hurricane Dolores and Hurricane Linda – were responsible for the bulk of the Southland’s unusual summer rain.
A Category Four monster off the coast of Mexico, Hurricane Dolores weakened quickly as it moved north offshore of the Baja California coast. On July 22, it finally dissipated a few hundred miles west of San Diego.
But since the northeast quadrant of tropical systems always bring the most rainfall and other impacts, weakened Dolores still gave Southern California not only some welcome rain, but even some flood troubles.
San Diego and Los Angeles both set monthly records for July rainfall, at 1.70 inches and 1.30 inches, respectively. Many foothill and mountain areas in San Diego County received more than four inches of rain.
The San Diego River reached 8.9 feet – just below flood stage – a dramatic rise considering the ongoing drought at the time.
And in the Inland Empire, flooding closed roads and washed out bridges.
While rainfall from Hurricane Dolores helped freshen up the countryside for a few weeks, the heat of summer quickly dried vegetation, raising fire danger once again.
But September would bring another welcome wet surprise for Southern California, thanks to Hurricane Linda, which peaked in intensity as a Category Three storm off the southern Baja coast before rapidly weakening in the open ocean.
On Sept. 15, 2.39 inches of rainfall fell in Downtown Los Angeles, for the city’s second wettest September day on record (second only to Sept. 25, 1939, when an unnamed tropical system made landfall near Long Beach).
Rain totals in the inches were common throughout the region, and the freak storm even caused the disruptive closure of Highway 91 in Corona, where a 50-yard crack opened up amidst construction efforts.
A student at Cal State Fullerton at the time, I remember sitting in traffic in heavy rain on the alternate route of Highway 60 as I attempted to get to my classes and student job that day.
The most devastating impacts of Hurricane Linda occurred in Utah, where flash flooding wrought by the storm’s remnants left 20 people dead in the worst such disaster in that state’s history.
Observations and Conclusion
Rainfall is usually thought of as almost exclusively a late autumn, winter and early spring phenomenon in Southern California, and for good reason. Almost all of the major storms that have impacted the state have occurred in that timeframe.
But the wet summer of 2015 shows that heavy rain is possible in summer, with both benefits for fire suppression and drawbacks due to flash flooding.
Looking at weather records for Riverside, it is notable that summers with more than two inches of rainfall have often – though not always – occurred amidst broader droughts. Some of these years include 1983, 1977, 1976, 1963 and 1935.
Perhaps this should provide cause for cautious optimism when entering a drought year, since summer rain could provide some support in minimizing fire risks.
The lack of snowpack during summer storms makes these systems less productive for the state’s water supplies, however.
Not surprisingly, summer rainfall brings with it unusually high humidity and dew points. Maximum temperatures tend to be lower, but minimum temperatures tend to be higher and thus more uncomfortable during wetter summers. This is a concern for heat stress in vulnerable populations, especially in coastal areas where air conditioning is less widespread.
Excessive heat and humidity particularly occurs in the days immediately before a summer rainstorm. Most of these storms are hurricane-related, and the sinking air and offshore flow generated by these storms during their approach makes sultry conditions likely in even coastal areas of Southern California.
Finally, the wet summer of 2015 brings to remembrance California’s location on the periphery of a major hurricane region, which is just as active as its Atlantic Basin counterpart. While the cool California ocean current makes hurricanes a gray swan event for the region, even a minor warming of ocean temperatures could make such events more frequent or impactful, with both blessings and curses for the natural environment.
In 1975, the Robles family opened a small Mexican eatery near the north end of Sierra Way in San Bernardino, part of a lower middle class neighborhood nestled in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains. The food stand thrived despite the ravages of the nearby Panorama and Old fires and several economic recessions. Nearly half a century later, the restaurant, Rosa Maria’s, is a beloved favorite for multiple generations of locals. And the Robles family has opened three additional locations – in Highland, Redlands and Fontana.
Gaining a loyal following as a Mexican restaurant in the Inland Empire isn’t easy. The area is part of the Burrito Triangle, where family-owned establishments serve up the best Mexican food imaginable and competition is fierce.
Rosa Maria’s burritos have such a dedicated following that they are shipped frozen throughout the continental United States to former Inland Empire residents and out-of-town family and friends of I.E. natives who have been introduced to this restaurant’s distinctive style and can’t live without it.
All Rosa Maria’s tortillas are made on-site using traditionally recipes at their flagship San Bernardino location, adding an authenticity lacking at many Mexican restaurants.
The so-called “garbage” burrito, which is stuffed with beans, rice, pork, lettuce, tomatoes and onions, is perhaps the most iconic Rosa Maria’s specialty. It makes for a balanced and satisfying meal at an affordable price.
From church functions to weddings to school and community events, Rosa Maria’s is also a San Bernardino Valley favorite for catering. Locals know that the presence of the restaurant’s distinctive food truck means a tasty meal is in store.
Unlike larger chains in which every location is cookie cutter, each Rosa Maria’s restaurant has an ambiance and format all its own. While the San Bernardino location offers outdoor dining only, you can eat in an air conditioned interior at the Highland and Fontana sites. Redlands is open only for takeout.
For more on Rosa Maria’s, their menu, and the addresses and hours of each of their locations, visit them online. And if you’re looking for work in the Inland Empire, apply today to join the Rosa Maria’s team! They are always looking for talent!
The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted plans for the annual Independence Day classic car show at the Packinghouse Christian Fellowship in Redlands in 2020. But with loosening restrictions and relatively benign dry summer weather in the 90s, hot rod enthusiasts from across California eagerly returned to the more than decade-long tradition of showing their lovingly restored vehicles at the July 5, 2021, Independence Day Celebration.
From early 1900s Model T-era antiques to the muscle cars of the 1960s and 1970s, the more than 350 vehicles displayed on the athletic field of the church’s private school were sure to interest virtually any auto enthusiast or historian, and provided a unique look back at where we’ve come in the development of motor vehicles, which in turn have played such a pivotal role in the coming of age of Southern California.
Classic motorcycles, valve cover races and live music from The Altar Billies, a Santa Ana rockabilly trio, combined to create a great afternoon for thousands of Southern Californians and visitors who attended. Catered food from Baldwin Park cult favorite In-N-Out combined to make for a festive day possible only in the Southland.
In the past two weeks, weather forecasters covering the Pacific Northwest region watched in disbelief as weather models predicted temperatures in the 110s for cities such as Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington. Temperatures that exceeded all-time record highs by 5°F to 10°F, which is extremely rare anywhere in the world.
As the heat wave drew nearer, confidence grew in the models’ accuracy, and weather forecasters began warning of an unprecedented heat event in Oregon, Washington state and British Columbia.
On June 27-28, the dire predictions turned into reality, with Seattle recording 107°F and Portland seeing 115°F. The previous all-time records were 103°F and 107°F, respectively, for these cities.
And in Canada, the nation’s all-time record of 113°F was easily shattered, with temperatures approaching 120°F in interior portions of British Columbia.
At the time of this writing, cooler temperatures have arrived, but not before a region woefully unprepared for hot temperatures (Seattle is the U.S. metro where air conditioning is the least widespread) had experienced one of modern history’s most extreme heat events.
Californians can be thankful that the massive ridge of high pressure that fed the Pacific Northwest heat wave occurred to the north, rather than over the Golden State.
But for a hypothetical case, what would have happened if a heat event of the same magnitude as the 2021 Pacific Northwest scorcher occurred in Southern California?
It Would Be a True World-Record Scorcher
Summer temperatures in portions of the Low Desert and Death Valley are already among the hottest on the planet. So an unprecedented heat wave there could easily result in the hottest temperatures recorded on earth.
Take Palm Springs, which has a record high of 123°F. Add the extra degrees that Portland and Seattle experienced and it would be between 127°F and 131°F there. On the high end of the range, this would be some of the hottest air temperatures ever recorded in a metropolitan area anywhere on the planet.
The Inland Empire would only be slightly cooler, and the offshore flow that accompanied the Pacific Northwest heat wave would ensure that temperatures would reach their full potential. Temperatures between 113°F and 126°F would be the rule across the valleys.
In Downtown Los Angeles, the high might be somewhere between 117°F and 121°F, temperatures considered exceptional even in desert towns such as Las Vegas or Phoenix.
Conditions in beach areas might be more complicated. Even during the Pacific Northwest heat wave, beach towns were considerably cooler, thanks to a persistent marine layer (which ultimately brought an end to the worst of the heat on the evening of June 28).
Astoria, on the Oregon coast, tied its all-time record of 101°F during the Northwest heat wave.
That means, in Southern California, beach towns from San Diego to Venture might be in the upper 100s to low 110s. Certainly not much relief!
A major difference in Astoria was that the extreme heat lasted only one day, rather than three or more for inland areas. So perhaps, if it had occurred in the Southland, there would have been one day of triple digit beach temps, with highs in the 90s on the other days of the event.
Nighttime temperatures in the Pacific Northwest during the heat wave were in the 70s, but typically are in the 50s in summer. For Southern California west of the mountains, summer nights average in the 60s.
So in a comparable heat event, nighttime lows in the 80s would probably be the norm in coastal and valley areas. In the Low Desert, nighttime lows might not dip below 100°F at all! That’s only been known to occur at Death Valley or along a few spots near the Persian Gulf.
No doubt wildfires and power outages would occur in Southern California in such an extreme scenario, compounding the stress on the region and raising risks for many.
Could It Really Happen?
A day in the 120s and 130s across Southern California is a terrifying thought to many. But could such a heat wave really occur?
It might be hard to say for certain, since the Pacific Northwest heat wave would have seemed improbable to even many experts before it happened.
But looking at the experience with other recent mega-heat waves around the world, it seems that the greatest heat anomalies (departure from normal temperatures) occur at more northern latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.
Thus, while the highest absolute temperatures are still in the world’s deserts, the most unusual heat has occurred in places such as Western Europe in 2003 or Russia in 2010. And going further back in time, the July 1936 Dust Bowl in the U.S. Great Plains and the 1540 heat wave in Europe would provide precedents, and both occurred further north than California.
This might provide some measure of comfort to Southern Californians, since the region is further south and is expected to have smaller temperature increases in global warming scenarios than, say, Arctic or mid-latitude spots.
But Southern California’s mountains allow for offshore flow, which when in place, can easily warm spots west of the mountains to some eyepopping highs, even in winter. With that in mind, a Pacific Northwest-style heat event might well be possible in at least parts of the Southland.
Thankfully, California dodged a bullet in June 2021. Hopefully, such extreme heat never occurs in our region.
The late 1960s were times of epic change and turmoil. Riots and protests spread through U.S. cities, amidst racial tensions and opposition to an unpopular war in Vietnam. A number of political leaders were assassinated. Geopolitical tensions in North Korea and Southeast Asia threatened to spawn World War III. About 1 million people worldwide died of a respiratory virus pandemic that began in China. All norms, standards and traditions were being challenged by a global youth-led counterculture movement.
Amidst the unrest came a surprising movement emanating from Southern California’s Orange County.
An evangelical Christian religious revival centered among former drug addicts, bikers, hippies, astrologists and counterculturals began in Los Angeles and Orange counties in 1968. It rapidly spread up and down the West Coast; then across the U.S.; and finally overseas to Europe, Central America, Australasia and other places.
By 1971, the movement was front-page news around the world. The June 21 cover of Time magazine proclaimed the “Jesus Revolution” that was transforming America’s youth and young adults.
The Associated Press even named the movement among its top 10 stories of the year.
Dubbed the Jesus Movement, the revival had a number of factions. Some were cultic in expression, but many others adhered to mainstream evangelical Christianity. The movement was a major part of what historians and scholars, including economist Robert Fogel, often call the Fourth Great Awakening – a period in the late 20th century in which conservative Judeo-Christian belief and practice again became a major force in American and global society.
From contemporary Christian music to the religious right to nondenominational and post-denominational churches, the legacy of the Orange County-birthed Jesus Movement continues in most communities across the Western world.
The Jesus Movement’s Birthplace in Costa Mesa
If there were a single location that could be considered the origin of the Jesus Movement, it would be Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa.
In 1965, Chuck Smith, a graduate of Santa Ana High School and San Dimas’ Life Pacific University, assumed the pastorate of the church, which at the time was a congregation of only 25 people.
Chuck Smith’s wife, Kay, felt a burden to minister to the multitudes of hippies, many homeless and substance abusing, that lived on the beaches and in the parks and streets of Orange County at the time.
Soon, scores of young hippies were attending the doctrinally conservative Calvary Chapel, and within a few years, the church’s growth to 2,000 congregants necessitated meeting outdoors in a tent.
Calvary Chapel was influential in the founding of group homes in which former drug addicts could start a new life. Many eventually entered full-time ministry themselves, resulting in the founding and spread of such denominational expressions as Calvary Chapel and Anaheim-based Vineyard churches.
Visiting the Epicenter, a Half Century Later
Today, Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, located at 3800 S. Fairview Street in Santa Ana, has more than 10,000 attendees, a K-12 private school, and even a professional building housing a number of ministries and commercial interests, including a Christian radio station.
The most accessible part of the campus for the visitor is The Chapel Store, which sells Christian books (including a good many on the history of the Jesus Movement and its continuing legacy), art and gift items. There is also a large clearance area and some vintage books, including early Biblical commentaries. The store is open daily except Mondays.
If you take in a service, lecture or event on the sprawling campus, be sure to check out the display on the history of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, which is located in the Fellowship Hall. It’s a look back at the height of the Jesus Movement, in photo.
Another spot to visit is Pirate’s Cove Beach in Newport Beach’s Corona del Mar neighborhood, just across the strait from the Balboa Peninsula. The calm waters of this beach made it an ideal place for large baptisms during the height of the Jesus Movement. Such beach baptisms became one of the most memorable aspects of the movement.
The beach is accessible by parking in the Corona del Mar neighborhood and accessing Lookout Point Park (a great spot to photograph a dramatic sunrise or sunset) at the corner of Ocean Boulevard and Heliotrope Avenue. Stairs lead down to the beach.
Interested in learning more about the surprising religious movement that began in Orange County? A great place to start is by reading Jesus Revolution: How God Transformed an Unlikely Generation and How He Can Do It Again Today, a 2018 book written by Jesus Movement convert and evangelist Greg Laurie and New York Times bestselling author Ellen Vaughn.
Looking at the history of the late 1960s and early 1970s, compared with conditions at present, Laurie and Vaughn examine how the Jesus Movement developed and grew, and how a repeat of such a movement might well be in America’s future.
Off the 71 Freeway in Chino Hills, The Commons at Chino Hills Shopping Center, which is anchored by Lowes and Hobby Lobby, seems much like dozens of other upscale strip centers in suburban Southern California. But between Hobby Lobby and a restaurant row is a most unlikely site: a replica of Abu Simbel, the 13th century B.C. temples in Aswan, Egypt, carved by the famed Pharaoh Ramses II.
The Chino Hills structure, which draws a constant stream of locals and tourists alike seeking an opportunity to take a selfie in front of one of the massive stone likenesses of Ramses or his wife Nefertari, is the future home of Farou Food, an Egyptian restaurant that has been in the works for years, yet has been repeatedly delayed amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges.
As it exists now, the interior of the 5,945 square foot building is closed to tourists, though a view through the window of the locked doors reveals an empty space with some construction materials.
But the amazing intricacies of the exterior make this certainly worth a stop, and perhaps even a good 30 minutes or so of review.
The eastern side of the edifice (facing Hobby Lobby) has four likenesses of Ramses II, the storied Egyptian leader who many historians believe was the pharaoh of the Biblical Exodus. One of the statues at the original Abu Simbel was damaged shortly after construction three millennia ago. True to form, the Chino Hills replica has one statue missing its head. Around the legs are smaller statues featuring family members of Ramses.
Four additional likenesses of Ramses and two of Nefertari grace the northern and southern sides of the structure, while the western side features pillars with images of the goddess Hathor and other figures.
If plans stay on track, one day Farou Food will offer Southern Californians the opportunity to try delectable Lebanese, Persian and Mediterranean cuisine. But for now, its status as a remarkable historical site makes it a worthy addition to any Inland Empire trip. And I believe this structure would make for a great Egyptian history and culture museum!